Indians rookie catcher Carlos Santana is really, really good

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Carlos Santana’s promotion to Cleveland kind of got lost in the call-up shuffle last month as Stephen Strasburg and Mike Stanton dominated the hype and headlines, but the switch-hitting catcher has been fantastic and the Indians are quietly playing much better since his arrival.
Prior to calling up Santana the Indians were 23-36, but they’ve gone 17-18 with him in the lineup as the 24-year-old acquired from the Dodgers for Casey Blake in mid-2008 has hit .282 with a .431 on-base percentage and .547 slugging percentage in 153 plate appearances.
In the minors Santana drew more walks than strikeouts while getting on base at a .401 clip, but drawing 32 walks in 153 trips to the plate is remarkable patience for a rookie getting his first taste of the big leagues. Projected over a full season of 600 plate appearances, he’s on a 125-walk pace. Gene Tenace holds the all-time walks record for catchers with 125 in 1977.
Santana has also shown excellent power, smacking six homers and 13 doubles in 117 at-bats. He never showed quite that much pop in the minors, but did average 21 homers and 34 doubles per 500 at-bats. Offensively he’s the total package, with power and patience from both sides of the plate. And he’s even thrown out 35 percent of steal attempts after struggling to control the running game at times in the minors.
He’ll no doubt go through a rough patch eventually, but Santana’s minor-league track record is nearly flawless, his approach at the plate is fantastic, and he has the potential to be a perennial MVP candidate long after Casey Blake is retired. Sorry, Dodgers fans.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.